There are a couple standard questions military wives ask each other upon meeting.
What does your husband do?
How long have you been in?
Where were you stationed beforehand?
Where are you from originally?
How long have you been here?
Do you like it?
It’s just second nature. While the larger topics of conversation generally evolve, it’s the beginning questions that spark interest and direct the flow of the conversation. So, when I let on that our last duty station was Camp Humphreys, South Korea, the small talk is quickly diverted to our story of life in the Land of the Rising Sun.
The conversation goes a little like this:
“Wow, you lived in South Korea for two years! What was it like? I can’t even imagine living there.”
It was indescribable. Every aspect of living there was completely different than living in the States. When I start describing the fields and crops, the food and stores, they are in complete disbelief.
“I can’t believe you did that. Especially for two years. That sounds horrible.”
It was horrible. There were times I just sat and cried. And missed my family. And America. There were times I envisioned driving to the closest Target, climbing onto a shelf and vowing to never leave again. I had dreams about grocery store aisles. When our base was missing a pediatrician and Gabe got the flu, I drove to Osan AFB’s emergency room, with 3 month old Zander in tow. It sucked then. When I would go to our commissary and the formula Zander drank was out of stock for weeks, it was no picnic.
But there were good times too. We made friends. We made lifelong friends, provided I can keep up the correspondence (you guys have to stay on me, I’m horrible at remembering to email and call). We learned so much about ourselves, about the necessities of life and about living and loving together. We learned how to make something from nothing.
“How did you do it?”
I did what I had to to keep our family together. What else do you do when faced with the choice of spending a year apart or two years together in another country? You just do it. Take one day at a time, one breath at a time and keep going. There is no real trick to making it work, you just do. You just survive.
“Would you do it again?”
I don’t know. We are in a different place in our lives now. We have two more children than we had the first time around. We have a school-ager now. It wouldn’t be the same. There wouldn’t be the same support structure we had before. Even as we were leaving, things were changing.
I can’t say I miss Korea. I can’t say I would do it again or recommend it. I do miss our friends, the camaraderie, the small-town Army life. I miss feeling like a part of a community. The hardest part and biggest adjustment to life here at Bliss has been fitting back into society. In Korea, you fit because you were military and American. You didn’t have to try at anything, you didn’t even have to shower before you went somewhere, because it didn’t matter. Everyone got along with everyone, everyone was friends with everyone, because that’s all there was. Here, you’re not secluded by 14 hours time difference. There’s no language or cultural barrier. No one has to be your friend. They can go make friends with any of the hundreds of other families. Or they can call their other friends and family.
Today, we went to the Army Community Services playgroup on base. It was our first trip and a happy one. Zander had a grand time, playing and cleaning, with the other children. Calla behaved perfectly for a teething three month old. I had conversations with adults. Conversations with adults with minimal child interruption. We made small talk and I divulged about South Korea. We laughed about how funny life can be with toddlers, talked about the hardships of moving and how we liked El Paso so far. When the time was over and after cleaning up, we said goodbyes and see you next Tuesday.
I found myself getting sentimental. While I miss my friends and the ease of our conversation, I know it’s good to “get back out there”. I know I missed the adult interaction and the friendship of other mothers. I’m hoping this is a first step to new friendships.
I’m hoping these women don’t mind when I throw myself at their feet, begging for their Facebook names so we can stay in touch and get together and be friends 🙂
This moving Army life is hard. And it’s always going to be hard to pick up and leave a comfort zone. But it will be okay. Breathe in and breathe out. Take one day at a time. Think of my missing friends as I reach out towards new ones. Just like in Korea, I’ll survive. That’s just what you do.